The Government Shutdown Is Over: How did Homeless Programs Fare?

After a full and tumultuous legislative session, we have come to the end with a Government Shutdown and a Special Session. The special session began on yesterday, July 19, at 3:00pm. Working quickly and into the evening and early morning, the Minnesota Legislature passed spending bills, which went to the Governor this morning, July 20, for his signature, thus ending the shut-down.

Our work this session was to ensure funding for programs remain intact that work to prevent and end homelessness, in spite of a $5 billion budget deficit. We advocated for all homeless program funding, for General Assistance, and for Minnesota Family Investment Program. In this regard, our voices have been heard as homeless programs fared well in the final budgets.

On Homeless Programs in the Health and Human Services Budget:

  • Family Homeless Prevention & Assistance Program – base level funding protected;
  • Emergency Services Grant – base level funding protected;
  • Transitional Housing Grant – base level funding protected;
  • Runaway & Homeless Youth Act – base level funding protected;
  • Long-Term Homeless Support Services Fund – base level funding protected (although $2.3 million in one-time funding was not renewed);
  • Housing Trust Fund – base level funding protected, with an additional $2 million added to the base;
  • Group Residential Housing – base level funding protected;
  • General Assistance – $203/month cash grant protected, but now requires 45 days of being ill or incapacitated for eligibility rather than 30 days;
  • Defeat of the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP)/Supplimental Support Income (SSI) Penalty – cash grants protected, no SSI penalty imposed;
  • Defeat of the restrictions to parents on MFIP to receive training and education.
  • Medicaid Expansion – signed into law extending health care benefits to the former GAMC population.

Essential Services

During the shut-down, our partners worked tirelessly to ensure that Homeless Programs were listed as essential services. Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless and Heading Home Minnesota argued in front of Judge Gearin to name the following programs essential ruled and core functions of government and essential to the health and safety of Minnesotans:

  • Emergency Services;
  • Transitional Housing;
  • Long-Term Homeless Support Services;
  • Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program;
  • Runaway & Homeless Youth Act;
  • Homeless Prevention & Rapid Re-Housing;
  • HUD – ESGP;
  • Support Services for Rural Homeless Youth

This year we did advocate for a fair and balanced approach to solving the budget deficit. Unfortunately, revenues were not raised in the final budget bills. Instead, money was used from a tobacco fund and with education shifts so as not to raise revenues. Not raising taxes in a fair and balanced way will leave us with problems to deal with in the future with education shirts and cuts to needed programs like child care, health care, mental health care, and transportation.

Thanks to great advocates!

This work has been possible only because so many people came together around a common purpose.  Raising our voices is an important aspect of living out our faiths and working for the common good. Your participating in contacting your legislators, encouraging friends to contact their legislators, writing letters to the editor, showing up at the capitol, putting up a lawn sign and much more was a reason the final budget bills included the programs essential to helping people move out of homelessness and prevent homelessness. Thank you, thank you for sticking with speaking up regardless of the tough conversations and frustrations!

This session, our work was to protecting funding; next session and beyond, we will work tirelessly and strategically to end homelessness.  We know that working together in a well-coordinated campaign, with active participation, and in partnership together, we will raise our voices and do good things.

Thank you for all you do!

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